Ah, Labor Day. A perfect day for a trip to the ballpark! And I was taking my wife with me to watch the Angels take on the Mariners in this AL West showdown. Also in attendance was Zack Hample–ballhawk extraordinaire–and as I stood in line in the fifth of five lines I noticed him a few lines over.
Zack had been speaking with a columnist from the OC Register but took a moment out of his media day to pose for a photo with me and sign my copy of The Baseball that he’d published earlier in the year (photo courtesy of Zack’s blog–and Brandon Sloter). We chatted about strategy and we’d end up running into each other throughout the day. And you can read Zack’s entry about this game on his blog. I ran in and quickly made it out to the right field seats. The gates had opened at 4:02pm and at 4:04pm I got my first ball of the day from Bobby Cassevah. A simple toss-up to get me on the board. Not five minutes later I scored my second baseball of the day by asking Hisanori Takahashi for one that he had fielded–I guess my Japanese is still passable. That ball had a practice logo on it.
That was it for the Angels… they just didn’t have anyone hitting much out. I could tell Zack was a little frustrated–but he passed the time by talking to his reporter colleague and attempting to use his famous glove trick from atop the 18 ft. right field wall. A couple of us warned him that security didn’t like devices… but I guess he could always plead ignorance if they tried to stop him. I think he managed to get two baseballs before security asked him to step into the concourse–he was back a few minutes later–sans glove trick.
I, meanwhile, snagged the 365th ball of my life off the bat of Kyle Seager, who hit a homer into the second row of the seats. I was in the third row to the left of where the ball would land and Zack, apparently, had been standing in the second row to the right of where the ball was headed. We converged as the ball descended and I reached out and caught the ball in the the second row as Zack came zooming in from the right and his glove knocked into my hat and glasses. Luckily, I held onto the ball and Zack checked on me to 1) make sure I’d caught it, and 2) to see if I was OK. I was fine. Now I can say I got hit in the head by Zack Hample…
My next ball was hit by an M’s players that I couldn’t identify–it was a standard ball, as were all the baseballs I’d snagged at this point, and I ended up giving it away to a small boy. And that was it for BP. I had been hoping to catch one off the bat of Ichiro but it just wasn’t in the cards. And I’d spent a few minutes down by the RF foul pole… as you can see here:
That photo is courtesy of the OC Register… Zack and I are in M’s caps. But I came up empty there and at the Mariner dugout.
Next up, Angels warm-up tosses over on the LF line. Michelle took this photo as I headed down to the field once the Angels came out to stretch.
I was in the second row and got Maicer Izturis to toss me my fifth ball of the day–another standard Selig ball.
I sat with Michelle down the first baseline a bit as the game got underway and headed toward the dugout whenever the Angels had two outs on ’em, hoping I could get a third out toss from Adam Kennedy, the M’s first baseman for the day.
I saw Zack get one in the first inning–he had no competition, and he moves pretty quick! In all seriousness, there is a reason that dude has snagged as many balls as he has–he’s good. He’s fast, he plans well to find the right place to be, and he’s skilled. I’ve met Zack twice now (the last time was on 9/2/08 at Dodger Stadium) and he’s made some pretty impressive snags that I’ve gotten to see in person.
On another third out try I leaped for a ball that Zack grabbed and I sort of fell into him a bit… no one fell down and I was glad that he could grab a gamer in Anaheim. I got my shot later on in the bottom of the sixth inning. Maicer Izturis grounded out to Adam Kennedy at first and Kennedy stepped on first, then headed to the dugout. I was five rows back in the aisle and he tossed the ball my way. It went just over my head and to the right but got bobbled by a fan behind me and the ball dribbled back to the aisle where I nabbed the game-used commemorative for my sixth on the day!
I wasn’t going to catch Zack (who’d end the night with eleven baseballs) but I was going to come away with a respectable number. The game was winding to a 7-3 Halos victory powered by Mark Trumbo and the heart of the order and by the end of the evening the Angels had advanced to within 2 1/2 games of Texas in the American League West.
After the final out I got my seventh and final ball of the day from Jason Vargas before he retreated into the clubhouse. Michelle and I chatted with Zack for a moment in the seating bowl, Brandon took a picture of us… and then he and I went our separate ways. It had been a pretty darn good holiday weekend.
It was a Saturday–Michelle had to work that evening–I wanted to go to a ball game. Luckily, my uncle called me to say that he had four tickets to that evening’s Angels/Mariners game. Then he asked, did I want two of them? Score! I got the family discount–Stubhub! can’t provide that! So, after picking up the tickets I drove to the stadium and met Chris at the gates–he was using the second ticket. We headed in and I took off for right field.
It was a frustrating batting practice. Here was my view for part of it:
I would eventually move closer to right field. I just wasn’t having any luck… but I had plenty of close calls. I’ll just cut to the chase: I ended up with one ball through the whole ninety minutes of BP. It was tossed by Jason Vargas and here it is:
I know the photo’s a bit dark bit it was a nice 50th ball with just one scuff on it… below the logo. In case you’re wondering what that number on my palm means, I wrote ‘340’ so that I would remember the next ball I snagged was my 340th ball.
After the Angels did some pregame throwing and I missed out on a ball on that side I went to the M’s side of the field and, well, here’s Jack Wilson and Kyle Seager heading into the dugout after their warmup throws:
See how there are about three people looking over at the camera in that photo? It’s because a moment before I took that picture Wilson tossed me this:
So a poor outing (from a snagging standpoint) got a little bit better.
I went to sit behind the Angel dugout for the first inning and sent my wife a picture message that said: I wonder how long I’ll get to stay here.
It turns out those fans showed up in the fourth inning–but my prime real estate didn’t get me another baseball. Still, it was an excellent view of Ichiro as he prepared to swing:
Well, he’d just stolen second… Aybar is making sure to keep a tag on Ichi while, I believe, the ball is getting switched out since it was scuffed and would no longer be usable in the game.
I spent a little time behind the M’s dugout, too:
Torii took that pitch for a strike, BTW. After about five innings I checked in with my uncle (and his wife) near their seats:
My uncle Ivar is the man responsible for me being as big a baseball fan as I am–he started taking me to games when I was a little kid (and they were still called the California Angels). And during the top of the sixth I told them I would be going on a brief walk. I walked down to the Angel dugout and took a seat about fifteen rows back. And when Franklin Gutierrez hit a grounder to second baseman Howie Kendrick, Kendrick fired the ball to Mark Trumbo at first for the final out of the frame. And when Trumbo got near the foul line I waved my arms and called out to him from about six or seven rows back and he threw me the gamer. Nice!
The night ended up being just fine from a snagging perspective.
Ludacris was scheduled to perform a postgame concert at Angel Stadium and I promised my uncle I would take a bunch of pictures–he also made sure I took one of this pre-recorded interview that played on the jumbotron between innings:
As for the game… well, let’s see… the Angels only scored one run… Treyvon Robinson hit his first career home run (and some fan jumped a railing to chase after it… then encountered some not-too-pleased security personell)… Blake Beavan tossed eight quality innings and Brandon League threw a scoreless ninth. I was behind the M’s dugout at the time:
And League was pretty efficient. He got Vernon Wells to pop out. Then walked Howie Kendrick.
And then Mark Trumbo grounded into a double play to end the game. :sigh:
I hung around for the postgame interview as Beavan (who’s 6′ 7″) got interviewed and the relievers walked in from the bullpen.
I didn’t get anything tossed to me though except for a few pieces of bubble gum. A little later, once the stage was set up, assembled, and folks were let onto the infield dirt, Ludacris emerged from the visitor’s dugout and played an hour-long set.
There were over 42,000 in attendance for the game and I’d say at least 25,000 stuck around for the concert. Some of the M’s were in the dugout watching… including Adam Kennedy–who then walked onto the field in street clothes with his kid and disappeared into the crowd (he came back a little later).
I left before Ludacris finished to beat the traffic out of the parking lot.
It was a warm summer evening in Orange County and I was psyched about hats. Not just any hat, however… no, I was psyched about the Angels Flashback Hat promotion at Angel Stadium. I’m usually not too excited about a stadium giveaway (SGA) but I actually really liked the hat I’d seen on the Angels’ promotions page.
I’d been planning to go to this game for about a month and a half along with Michelle. Cool hat giveaway, plus I love watching the Seattle Mariners play–they’re fun to watch (and have quite a few powerful–in BP–lefties this year).
Unfortunately, Michelle got pretty sick and hadn’t recovered fully by the day of the game. So, I got her blessing to go to BP with both tickets, get two hats, chase a few baseballs, then return home. I probably could have stayed for the whole game but I wanted to make sure she was doing well at home. Off I went and I got to the stadium at about 4:45. There was already a substantial crowd:
I grabbed a spot in line near Devon, and headed inside. I nabbed my first free hat and ran out toward the right field seats.
Once there, I watched as only one home run got hit up to the pavilion during Angels BP. I didn’t get it. I did, however, ask Jordan Walden to throw me a baseball. And he did. But there was an extra step that led to me getting the ball. I saw Walden field a ball in the outfield. Instead of asking for it right away I said, “Hey, Jordan! Congrats, man!” He had just been named an All-Star that day. He looked up and said, “Thanks,” and gave me a thumbs up. A few minutes later he fielded another ball and I asked him if he could toss it up. He ignored the other five people who were blindly shouting, “Can I have a ball?” to everyone on the field and fired up Ball #1 on the day. I thanked him and wished him luck at the All-Star Game. The ball he threw me had a practice stamp and a few grass and bat stains on it And check out the cool scuff mark:
I’m guessing that it must have hit some concrete and then gotten back into the bucket somehow. Like it bounced off a seat or two.
That would be the only ball I’d get from the Angels. Hisanori Takahashi threw a ball up after I asked him in Japanese… but he threw the ball to an Asian fan on my right… I think he was confused as to who asked in Japanese for the ball. But I wasn’t worried… I knew that Ichiro hit first in the first group of Mariners. And I knew that he hit absolute bombs during BP.
I moved over into straightaway right field and only had to wait a minute until Ichiro started pulling the ball into the stands. He hit homer after homer and, luckily, I nabbed a brand new commemorative baseball off his bat
I wish I could say it went from his bat to my glove directly… but it didn’t. I still want to say I caught it on the fly though because the ball, follow me on this one, flew six to ten feet over my left shoulder. I turned around and my view of its landing spot was obscured by a fan in the row behind me–but only for a second as the ball suddenly bounced back toward me. Facing away from the field now, I leaned to my right and caught the ball. I quickly inspected it, saw the commemorative logo, did a little jig (not really) and then noticed that it didn’t have a single mark on it anywhere. It clearly didn’t hit one of the dark green seats of Angel Stadium… so what caused it to bounce back toward me? The only explanation I’ve come up with is that it hit another fan (or a fan’s glove) and then went bouncing my way again. So, since a player can have a ball bounce off his teammate and catch it before it hits the ground to get the out, I’ll say that I caught it on the fly. Thoughts? Here’s the ball:
It looks absolutely brand new. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even write a 324 over the “ings” in “Rawlings” since this was my 324th baseball snagged. I left it clean and pure, like the baseballs being sold for $24.99 in the Team Store.
Not three minutes later, on Ichiro’s next turn in the cage, I ranged a section to my right and snagged another BP homer from the future Hall-of -Famer… this one was a standard Selig ball. I made the snag from this spot:
Things slowed down a bit after that and I kept just barely missing out on some of the shots the lefties were puttin’ in the seats.
Rob made a catch on a ball in the row in front of me at one point. My glove was right behind his. I had it positioned, the ball was descending, and at the last possible second his glove rose up from under mine… he didn’t push me out of the way or deflect the ball or knock into my glove… he just got three inches in front of it. A clean play for sure. I congratulated him on the snag. Rob is, FYI, well over the 1,000 ball mark in his lifetime–and he only plays for hit baseballs which makes his quantity of baseballs snagged rather impressive, actually.
Ball #4 of the day came courtesy of lefty Jason Vargas. He’d been hanging out with Felix Hernandez (who has rather poor aim when tossing balls to fans during BP). After Hernandez missed me by four feet earlier in the BP session when trying to throw me a ball, Vargas scooped a ball off the warning track and tossed it right to me. The spot of the catch is shown in the photo above and to the left. I was in the first row. And Vargas is the Mariner on the left in the photo.
Thanks, Jason. This ball was almost brand new, with just one small black mark on it. The most interesting thing about that particular ball, however, is that one of the holes through the leather was too big or maybe misaligned… or the stitch got pulled too tight. Take a look:
Interesting, huh? Since all Major League Baseballs are made by hand, this is bound to happen. I’m just kind of surprised that this ball hadn’t been marked as BLEM (for “blemish”) or PRACTICE. You couldn’t use it in a game, right?
The Mariners ended BP at 6:25, as I expected, and I raced to their dugout. I didn’t get anything tossed to me there, unfortunately, and after that, I walked out (along with Chris) to the gates. We each had an extra ticket to get scanned–we did so, got our extra hats, and parted ways. I walked around the stadium through the concourse:
I stopped at the Guest Relations office for a second to grab some water–and while there I noticed a wall of old giveaways:
Can you tell what they all are? I’ll let you know that I have (or have had and then sold/given away) ten of the giveaway items pictured above. Like I said… I’m not usually too into giveaways at the stadium. I headed home as the crowds filed in and I made it there as the first inning got underway. Here are the four baseballs from the day:
The Angels would get the W for Jered Weaver, making his final start before the All-Star Break–he’d be named the AL starter with a record of 11-4 and an ERA of 1.86 after the first half of the season! Cy Young Award, anyone?
The Angels were back home after a road trip and I was psyched to be back at the stadium. I met up with Chris and a buddy of his before the gates opened at we headed in at 5:00pm.
I was not a Gold Glove-caliber fan for this game, lemme tell you that much. Before we get into details, check this out:
See that baseball out there? It was a homer hit by an Angels player that bounced on the batter’s eye and settled right there on the rocks. I kept thinking of a way to nab it… but came up with zero good ideas (read, ideas that wouldn’t get me kicked out). I’d imagine a cameraman probably ended up with it.
On to my BP blunders. Most notably, Kendry Morales knocked a homer out to me… like, to me. I was lined up perfectly and no one was near me. I had it in my sights, reached my glove up to catch it about a foot above my head… and it tipped off the end of my glove. Ugh. Luckily, it didn’t take a weird bounce and I ended up with the ball anyway. But, man, I was down on myself–I shoulda caught it on the fly.
That was it for Angels BP… the Mariners were out and I know where Ichiro hits ’em so I headed down near the foul pole in right field. I came close on a few of them but actually didn’t snag anything else until the last round of M’s batting practice. My second ball of the day was a grounder that cut along the wall and ricocheted off the corner. I leaned out and picked it off the warning track before it stopped rolling. A few minutes later Jason Vargas tossed a ball to where I was standing about ten rows back. It wasn’t specifically to me, or anyone… I jogged to my right after a fan tried to catch it barehanded and failed. I picked it up off the ground (and later gave that one away to an girl in an Angels jersey). Three baseballs… not bad but I had expected more from myself as BP ended. I ran down toward the dugout as the Mariners came off the field.
As everyone headed in a coach (who I later identified as Alan Cockrell) spotted me and tossed a ball over the crowd in the first row–to me in the fourth row. Error #2 for me on the day. I took my eye off the ball for a split second and I misplayed it. It hit off my glove and bounced down toward the dugout… but I was quick to recover, lunging for it and snagging it before anyone else even knew I missed it. But I knew. Argh…
I felt how an infielder must feel after botching a play (like a grounder went right through his legs) but that run doesn’t end up scoring. It’s like, “Well, things turned out all right. But I should have done better.”
It was Japan Day at the ballpark and so there was a pretty cool pregame display or taiko drumming and martial arts:
Anywho, I sat down to watch the game after I couldn’t get a warmup ball from any of the M’s… here:
And I moved every now and then between that view and a couple others but stayed pretty much in the same area, trying for foul balls and 3rd out balls… no dice.
I was stuck at four baseballs on the day and that was fine. It was a great pitcher’s duel. Scott Kazmir (in his Angels home debut) faced Felix Hernandez for the second time in a week-long period. Kaz gave up a solo home run to Franklin Gutierrez and that was it for the scoring…. until Brian Fuentes blew the save.
King Felix had allowed two runs (one earned) and the Halos were up 2-1 in the ninth. I was behind their dugout, ready for the win. But Mike Sweeney blasted Fuentes’ second pitch of the night out to center and–tie game. The Angels loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth but couldn’t get the run home.
To the tenth… Matt Palmer kept the Mariners scoreless in the inning and Erick Aybar delivered a walkoff hit to score Bobby Abreu! Angels win! And I only saw two baseball get tossed into the crowd… oh well.